BAME / Politics

Mixed race, mixed emotions.

I am mixed race and the number of us are on the rise in the UK, with 12% of households reporting to have mixed race members in the census. Being mixed race allows me to have an understanding of two different cultures and has made me a tolerant and accepting person. The only problem with being mixed race is that there are people on both sides of your race that have a problem with it.

When I was growing up -especially in high school-, I often wished I was white, because everyone else was. I wished that instead of the curls that everyone just had  to touch, I had straight hair like my friends. Not just so I wouldn’t have to answer the infuriating question of ‘ooh your hair is so weird, how do you brush it?’ (with a brush, how else?), but so I wouldn’t stand out. Being different can be hard, but it’s best to embrace it, otherwise you’ll attempt to blend in but never feel like you fit in.

Barack Obama; Half Kenyan, Half American English

Barack Obama; Half Kenyan, Half American English

As I said before, being mixed race can leave you vulnerable to offensive remarks from both sides of your race. From the white side, there’s the stereotypical immigrant jokes that aren’t actually funny and casual racist remarks and from the black side there are people who say you  aren’t black enough. Quite honestly, the idea that someone isn’t ‘black enough’ just because they are middle class or don’t have a regional accent is ridiculous. People within the black community need to support one another and not criticise people who do well -like my father-, no matter the odds stacked against them.  This is something I have found and continue to find, particularly sad about the black community.

One last thing, I am mixed race, so if you are going to label me as something, call me that, because I am a mix. I know a few other mixed race people who take issue with this as much as I do. I don’t really care if  Barack Obama gave up and just referred to himself as black, I have not. I am proud of being both English and Nigerian. I reject being referred to as black not because there is anything wrong with being black, but because I am not and have no right to call myself so. I am a lovely mixture of two cultures, to deny one side would be unfair, especially the side that has brought me up. Before some of you say that I obviously have a problem with being called black, I hated it just as much when I was called white in Nigeria. I am neither and I am both!  Having been called white in Africa and black in the UK, I can tell you that it can make you feel like  you do not belong  anywhere. So please, next time you are about to refer to someone as a particular race, check, are they actually?

I am so proud of being a mixture of cultures and having family around the world. My family is intercontinental, that can only be a good thing in an increasingly global and internationalised society.

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6 thoughts on “Mixed race, mixed emotions.

  1. Those who label people or themselves as black, white, mixed race ect. are the one keeping racism alive.
    If you want to fit in, be like everyone else, surly you would look pass peoples colours?

    Keep your culture alive, thats what really matters.

    • Whilst I can (kind of) see where you are coming from, I disagree.
      To pretend to be colour blind is just as ignorant, I would rather that people accepted that people are different colours, but that it is a good thing, my post is about using the wrong labels, not a debate on whether labels are good in the first place.
      I don’t want to be like everyone else, and I thought I had made that pretty explicit, I am happy to be different, I am celebrating diversity! Not ignoring it.
      Of course keeping culture alive is important

  2. Well, separate “races” do no exist anyway, so your parents’ colour comes from the genetic cluster of their national and enviromental heritages. Hence my dear, you are of mixed heritage.

    Nobody is black enough or white enough, because those “races” do not even exist anyway. However, I still continue to use the language of race (ie. black, white) in my daily life as it’s the language people are used to on a daily basis, and therefore difficult to communicate without using a common understading of terms.

    I am glad you recognise that there is no need for you to define or put yourself into a “racial” box, designed historically to oppress or elevate on the basis of skin colour, class and culture.

    Whatever your shade of brown, you are beautifully human so make no apologies for that.

  3. Brave piece. Thanks for writing. Identity is both personal and public and navigating both will always be challenging. I’m glad you claim both aspects of your heritage and you should feel proud to do so but is being dual heritage and certainly being self defined ‘mixed race’ mutually exclusive from being black? Most black people from the Caribbean and the US have a mix (I probably include myself in this). Why cant somebody be both mixed race and black – which is the case for Obama – he is ‘biracial’ and biracial is seen as a part of black experience? Do you have to be one/or the other?

    • Hi, since I wrote that piece my understanding of what it means to be ‘black’ (politically) has become deeper and I understand why some people refer to themselves as black. However, I was not happy before with people using these terms to define me, when I did not choose them to define myself! I think that the concept of ‘race’ and its history in the UK is somewhat different to the US and that is why using the term black or white to define myself for me in the UK was particularly difficult. My mum is white British and my dad is black British (Nigerian) so I have been brought up with those opposites in mind when I think of race. I don’t think you have to be one or the other, but I think its a matter of self determination and those labels were not what I identified with at the time. But it is true, the biracial experience is part of the black experience, but even then, it’s very different in many respects. Hope I have managed to explain properly!

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